After the 2014 midterm elections, a coworker came up to me and asked, "So what are you going to post on Facebook now?"
It was a fair question. During election season, I'd been tremendously vocal on social media about the candidates we supported. For my family, election season was our football season, and Election Night was our Super Bowl. As Texas Democrats, we entered the season knowing we were the underdog, but we painted our faces blue and cheered at the top of our lungs anyway. At an election night watch party, as we looked up at the monitors and saw our numbers coming in, we knew we were in for a hard night. I would say it felt like getting punched in the gut, but since a big reason I got involved was to help fight for women's reproductive rights, it felt more like a swift kick in the lady parts.
Any time I posted about politics I had one rule. I would do my best to take the high road and not bash the opposite site. As a parent, I think the best way you can teach your kids about government is to let them be involved in the process, and I don't find it becoming to teach the process while teaching hateful behavior at the same time. Also, I think bashing another candidate is just tacky, and when some of the candidates I supported aired attack ads, I grimaced.
Taking the high road isn't easy, believe me. Temptation to take the low road is everywhere. One morning while writing in a quirky Austin coffee shop, the table next to me had a pale blue lamp on it in the shape of a pig. Because that was a weird decorative choice, I turned to inspect it further, when I noticed that carefully taped under the pig's tail was a small glossy photo of the Governor of Texas' face.
No matter what your political persuasion you have to admit that's pretty hilarious. I snapped a photo of it, and right before posting it on Facebook I came face-to-to-face with my conscience. What kind of example would I set for my kids if I shared a photo blatantly disrespecting an elected official?
During the Midterms, Texas state senator Dan Patrick was hands down my biggest challenge for taking the moral high road. Of all of the candidates running in the midterms, Senator Patrick was the candidate I was most concerned about getting elected. I find his comments about undocumented citizens to be unkind and insensitive. I'm concerned about his policies on women's reproductive health, and was offended but mostly amused when he referred to the women and men gathering at the Capitol during Senator Wendy Davis' 2013 filibuster as "anarchists." I was there; I guess that made me an anarchist.
I often walk to work, and my normal route includes strolling past our beautiful state capitol building in Austin. A few weeks after the election, still nursing the wounds of our painful loss, I rounded the East entrance of the Capitol when I looked up to see a man in a suit walking with a few other men beside him, and when he got into view, I recognized him right away.
It was Senator Dan Patrick.
Really? Dan Patrick?
Here was my chance to speak my mind. There, on the pristine grounds of the State Capitol, I was going to give Texas' next Lieutenant Governor a piece of my mind!
"Good morning, Senator Patrick," I heard myself say. I heard myself sound polite. Damned East Texas upbringing, even when I want to be confrontational I sound like I'm teaching Sunday school.
"Good morning!" he beamed. He stopped walking and I approached him. I put my hand on my hip for impact.
"You did not get my vote," I said, "But I'd like to congratulate you on winning the election."
"Thank you," he said, and extended his hand. I shook it. What was I doing?
"I hope you take the job seriously and that you will work hard for the women of Texas," I continued. "I may not agree with you, but I believe we should respect our elected officials, and I will be writing about that."
That was my big threat? I'm going to write about respecting our elected officials? Wow. I'm a badass.
With that, Senator Patrick thanked me again. It was quite cordial. As I walked off, he turned around and said, "What is your name?"
"Amy Arndt," I answered, as I imagined his assistants running inside to Google me and coming up with my blog about being a Girl Scout Cookie Mom. I'll bet they were shaking in their boots.
"Have a good day, Amy," Senator Patrick said with a wave. It wasn't altogether dismissive. With that, he disappeared into his office as I headed off to mine.
Call it what you will, but I think the Universe intentionally put Dan Patrick in my walking path that morning. It was a fresh reminder that while I don't like the outcome, in a few short months, Senator Patrick will be my Lieutenant Governor. My Lieutenant Governor would be easier to say if we'd elected the candidate I supported. It's really difficult to refer to a candidate you didn't support in the possessive, but practice makes perfect.
When President Obama came to Austin earlier this year, l couldn't count the number of Facebook posts I read from people who said, "Send him back home. He's not MY President."
But here's the thing. He is your President. He's my President, too. When you feel compelled to say terrible things about an elected official, please reconsider. I believe it's possible to disagree with a politician without being hateful, and that even if your candidate loses, you have to suck it up and respect their position.
As for my family, we remain a bit lost as we figure out what to do post-midterms. Our 11-year-old who remained involved throughout the midterms is ready to move on. In the car the other day, she nudged me to find a new hobby.
"Now that elections are over," she said gently, "I think it's time we get into sports."
"Hmm," I said. "We're not really a sporty family."
"It's either sports, or you can become a dance mom. You decide."
You've got to give the kid credit. If she learned anything from the 2014 elections, it's that her mother is passionate about choice. So while it looks like some football is in my future (the lesser of two evils, I am certain), my elected officials can rest assured that when it comes to politics, I'm just too feisty to stay on the sidelines.